Mainland tourists on a learning curve
Chinese have become the world’s biggest tourist group. And like the Americans and Japanese before them, some Chinese have received flak for their behaviour overseas. But their habits will evolve over time
There is no more noticeable gauge of the mainland’s ever-rising economic might than the growing numbers of Chinese tourists. Levels surged another 15 per cent year-on-year in the first six months of this year to more than 71.3 million overseas trips, with Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, Japan and Vietnam being the favoured destinations.
The wave is welcomed and scorned by those at the receiving end; governments and businesspeople embrace the extra revenue, but some residents are none too happy about the crowds, inconvenience and behaviour of their guests. For those disconcerted about the influx, there is a simple truth, though – tourism is a learning curve, both for those visiting and being visited.
Chinese became the world’s biggest tourist group several years ago. The increase in numbers has been driven by rapid income and consumption growth. But the latest influx is believed to be the result of countries making it easier for mainlanders to get visas and more second and third-tier Chinese cities being directly connected by flights to foreign destinations. That, in turn, means that many people are venturing outside the nation for the first time in their lives.
Travel offers new experiences and is arguably the best entertainment and education. But another appeal is freedom from constraint and that is where Chinese and ethnic groups before them have run into trouble; inexperienced tourists are often criticised for being rude and unruly or culturally insensitive to locals. In the 1960s, Americans were considered brash and loud and in the 1980s, Japanese were ridiculed for going out of their way to take photographs of all and everything.
Chinese have been given flak for jumping queues, crowding out attractions, fighting on aircraft, littering streets and carving their names on monuments.
Mainland authorities have made an effort to educate about the rights and wrongs when travelling overseas. Every nation has its share of people who misbehave. But tourist habits evolve and travellers learn, over time, to respect foreign cultures and do “as the locals do”. Mainlanders will be no different.